Author’s Review—Steven Herrmann:
William Everson was the first American poet to explore the living link between shamanism and poetry, between the shaman’s call and the vocational archetype in the dreams of contemporary students. The book builds upon Everson’s contributions to the field of American poetry as an emergent field and augments his research into dreams of destiny when I was his teaching assistant for his celebrated course “Birth of a Poet” on the UC Santa Cruz campus from 1981-1982. In the book I draw upon my own personal experiences as a Jungian writer and psychotherapist to question Everson about the central purpose in our life: our calling to charismatic vocation. Since the conversations with Everson were conducted in 1992-1993, when the poet “called” me to down to his home to interview him, I have included an introduction and commentaries to aid the reader in places where psychological or religious terms are introduced and the words or notions are now clarified in the transcripts, or in footnotes. William Everson the Shaman’s Call is organized around fourteen Chapters that center on themes such as Everson’s hypothesis of a vocational archetype, the Native American vision quest, Christ as shaman, Walt Whitman, the God-image in American poetry, Robinson Jeffers, and Everson’s stunning poems, October Tragedy, Black Hills, and The Blood of the Poet. The poems selected for discussion are evocative and known to students of American literature, but not widely familiar to practitioners of analytical psychology, or our general readership. Prior to these last interviews with one of America’s greatest living religious poets the shamanic themes in American poetry had never been deeply mined for their richness and their depth of meaning. Our collaborative work is to illuminate the meaning of shamanic poetry by letting the images and rhythms of the poetry breathe in the text to reveal their own natural beauty, and hopefully lead readers into states of mind and emotion that can transform consciousness utterly. We have used the interview format to bring the lyrical rhythms of American poetry to life and have tried our best to stay away from psychological terminology that fails to speak to the reader’s core Self, whether when discussing fields of literature, psychology, fine press printing, science, astronomy, religion, or the arts. Our mutual effort is to invite readers to participate in the process of transformation evoked by the electric quality of the poetry and to lead one to listen through dreams, fantasy-thinking, and emotional resonance for the call within. The interviews address themes that have been in the process of evolution in American poetry since they were first introduced by Emerson in his 1844 essay “The Poet.” They point to the importance of living in accordance with Nature and the lyrical rhythms of psyche, communing with animals of the soul, letting go of our heroism and accepting symbolic death as individuals and as a species, so that a new shamanism can be born in us. The dialogues are designed to lead readers into the central archetype of order and meaning in the psyche that unites the field of American poetry with the most profound findings of analytical psychology, what C. G. Jung called the “Self.” We are shown in the narrative that the central gateway into the mystery of psychological transformation is through vocational dreams, synchronistic events, and transformative relationships, which hold the key to the mystery of identity. Such transformative experiences remind us of our destined tasks in life in relation to the revolving panorama of psyche and our modest yet vitally important place in the cosmos. Our book challenges assumptions about the poet’s role in society by positing that the first and primary function of the poet is to speak to the collectivity as a shamanic seer, a visionary, and as healer of the human tribe. It is in this spiritual sense that I believe William Everson was the twentieth century’s greatest living witnesses to the power of the shamanic archetype to evoke the mystery of transformation as a shaman. My role, as a Jungian psychotherapist and writer, is to dispense the meaning of the mantle he wore in “Birth of a Poet” as living witness to his powers of Divinization. Eloquent Books has done a beautiful job with the front and back covers of the text and it is my great hope that these final interviews that Everson gave, prior to his death in 1994 and the poetry we discuss together, will continue inspire the interest of our readers. I have been told what a splendid sight it is to see the book in print after all these years, with the illuminated path on the book’s front cover-picture winding through the redwoods with the golden glow of light inviting readers to enter the mystery of its printed pages.
Causes Steven Herrmann Supports
American Rights at Work